Heathrow officials have introduced three options for a third runway at London’s biggest airport, opposing London Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans to create a new hub elsewhere.
They said they believe that, despite the proposals introduced by the Mayor earlier this week, expanding Heathrow would be by far the fastest and cheapest way to deal with the increasing air traffic demands in the UK.
The plans, including construction of a sixth terminal, would enable Heathrow to increase the annual number of passengers from 70 million to 130 million.
The three options include two 3,500m-long runways accessible via Terminals 6 and 2: The £17bn north west runway, which could be completed by 2026, would require the demolition of 950 properties in Harmondsworth and Longford and putting part of the M25 in a tunnel. The £18bn south west runway would take up to 2029 to be built and would involve the demolition of 850 properties and compulsory purchases in the area of Stanwell More.
The third option – the £14bn 2,800m-long north runway, accessible via Terminals 5 and 2, would accommodate fewer flights. Despite being the cheapest, the construction would entail the demolition of 2,700 properties in the villages of Sipson, Harlington and Cranford Cross. This option offers the shortest completion time and might be operational by 2025.
All options are claimed to allow the increase of Heathrow's capacity from 480,000 flights a year to nearly 740,000. Heathrow’s bosses said each of the proposals would lead to decreasing the amount of people affected by aircraft noise at present. Despite having said the fourth runway wouldn’t be required until at least 2040, the plans were created in order to allow possible future expansion if the need arises. The fourth runway would cost an extra £8bn-£14bn.
"After half a century of vigorous debate but little action, it is clear the UK desperately needs a single hub airport with the capacity to provide the links to emerging economies which can boost UK jobs, GDP (gross domestic product) and trade,” Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews said.
"It is clear that the best solution for taxpayers, passengers and business is to build on the strength we already have at Heathrow. Today we are showing how that vision can be achieved whilst keeping the impact on local residents to an absolute minimum."
It has been said the third runway would generate revenues worth some £100bn and would not only safeguard 114,000 existing jobs but create 70,000 to 150,000 new ones.
On the other hand, if any of the options favoured by Mayor Johnson is selected, the result would be "the biggest mass redundancies in British history" from which it would take "more than a generation to recover," said Heathrow development director John Holland-Kaye.
The Heathrow officials believe that further advancement in aviation technology will eventually lead to a substantial decrease of noise in the vicinity of the airport. They said that, as a result, even with a third runway, there will be 10-20 per cent fewer people within Heathrow's noise footprint in 2030 than today.
The Heathrow runway proposals will be presented to the Whitehall-appointed Airports Commission headed by former Financial Services Authority chairman Sir Howard Davies.
The commission will also receive this week proposals announced on Monday by Mr Johnson who favours three sites for a four-runway, hub airport - on the Isle of Grain in Kent, on an artificial island in the Thames Estuary, or at an expanded Stansted Airport in Essex.
An original third-runway plan to the north of Heathrow was given the go-ahead by the Labour government in January 2009, with work expected to start in 2015 and be completed by 2019.
But when the coalition government came to power in May 2010, the third runway scheme was ruled out.